At around 7 am, in an apartment in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, just a few hours before I have to catch a flight from La Guardia to Chicago, I decide to meditate on the edge of a friend’s mattress with my back to the wall. Fifteen minutes later I put my mala beads down and check the time on my phone.
Whenever I travel, I make plans to be productive, to be mindful, to devour books like I did at 21 as a first-time solo traveler in Europe. But what ends up happening is this: an interrupted or somehow abridged meditation practice, lack of attention, anxiety, and at least a little gas.
I can do more nadi shodhanam. I can plot a course—non-stop—to relaxation town. Except on days like today when my mind won’t turn off. Later in the day at La Guardia, I’m too occupied replaying the hits (and probable misses) of my last night in New York to consider doing additional practice.
How do other yoga practitioners and teachers travel the world with their feet still squarely planted on the ground (while flying coach, catching public transportation, and avoiding the likes of airport bars and private town cars alike)?
As it happens you don’t need to buy an inflatable neck rest or seek out public yoga practice on the floor of airports—though, if you’re flying out of San Francisco’s SFO airport, they’ve got a room for that. Keep reading for mindful travel tips to use on any trip, in any part of the world.
1. Stay Hydrated
Because of the lack of humidity on most planes, it’s easy to get dehydrated from a short or long-haul flight. Yoga teacher Kathryn Budig buys a massive water bottle. Just don’t buy one until you clear airport security.
Optional: Mix the water with an effervescent wellness packet or tablet (such as Emergen-C or Airborne) and finish the bottle before you get off the plane.
2. Practice Therapeutic Asana
“It’s not my style to do yoga in airports,” says Jennifer Hoddevik of The Travel Yogi, but even if it’s not your cup of Earl Grey either, she recommends finding a way to practice double pigeon: it can be easily adapted to the confines of an airport gate, or the seats of planes, trains, and car seats alike. Try it at least once—your sore hips will thank you.
Other best bets? “I think legs-up-the-wall is imperative when traveling,” says Budig, who practices it just before bed, and who also gives a resounding commendation of double pigeon and other hip-openers. Among the chief benefits of practice, legs-up-the-wall is therapeutic for anxiety and insomnia, promoting the sleep you need after a long day of travel.
Hoddevik also practices twists, sun salutations, and heart-opening poses after reaching a destination. “It’s not so much grounding as a way to prepare yourself to be receptive to other people,” she says, “I get very tense when I travel so it’s a way to open myself and loosen up.”
3. Keep an Ayurveda First-Aid Kit
According to Ayurvedic Institute founder Vasant Lad, travel disrupts the vata dosha, making the usual suspects—dehydration, anxiety, general spaciness, and jet lag—easy to succumb to and more difficult to overcome. But the good news is that ayurveda offers loads of on-the-road remedies, from digestive herbs that can help prevent traveler’s diarrhea, to jet lag tea.
Get the 411 on these and other remedies here.
Other Holistic Tips:
Cover your throat with a scarf during air travel
Take epsom salt baths (for bloating)
Always carry arnica gel (for muscle aches)
4. Remember that Attitude is Everything
When life gives you delayed flights, mild nausea, or even awkward lunches with relatives you thought you once knew, reflect on the words of famed travel writer (and Dalai Llama bibliographer) Pico Iyer: “We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate.”
Or in other words, travel is transformative—regardless of the immediate feeling of a good or bad experience. “We’re all gonna hit the same hurdles,” says Hoddevik, “But trips in which you have a difficult experience or even a bad experience are maybe even more transformative than trips you look back on fondly.”
Try to approach a trip with the same openness and courage you’d use to approach a challenging pose or asana sequence. “You’re out of your bubble and have to learn about yourself,” says Hoddevik. “Travel forces you to understand more than the small nuclear world you’re comfortable with.”
5. Anxious? Breathe (Seriously)
“I’d get full anxiety the night before going somewhere,” says Budig, of early days as a traveling yoga teacher. “Now I throw my bag together and I’m ready for the journey.” Her advice? “Don’t focus on the potential for things going wrong or get ahead of yourself. That’s where the projection of fear, expectation, and anxiety come from.” Instead, “Be honest with yourself. One breath at a time, one step at a time.”
Remind yourself of your intention for travel, whether it’s to learn about a new culture or to share your message as a yoga teacher. “The only way to do that is to step out into the world,” says Budig, “You can’t stay in one place.”